Courage, common sense and cannabis

As images of people legally purchasing cannabis in the US state of Colorado on January 1 were beamed around the world, here’s hoping that the folks in Christiansborg noticed two things: the amount of sales tax charged on the first historic purchase and the simple fact that the sky did not fall.

The receipt of the very first purchase showed that Colorado pocketed well over one fifth of the $60 (300kr) total. Colorado shops made around $5 million in the first week of sales and expect to bring in over $600 million for the year. The anticipated tax revenue for 2014 is $67 million, most of which is being used for the state’s schools.

If pot smokers in the tax-adverse US are willing to fork out over 20 percent of their purchase price to buy weed legally, how much could tax-happy Denmark get away with charging?

READ MORE: No plans to follow Colorado's lead on cannabis 

But politicians in Christiansborg would rather stick with the status quo and continue to let gangs pocket all of the estimated one billion kroner the illegal trade brings in each year.

Cannibis prohibition has failed massively, both worldwide and here at home. A European report from 2012 shows that at 32.5 percent, Denmark has Europe’s highest proportion of people who have smoked pot. As Andreas Kiær, the latest of a growing number of police officers who have spoken out against Denmark’s failed drug policies, recently pointed out in an op-ed in Berlingske, the Netherlands – a country with much more liberal cannabis laws – didn’t even make the top five.

Acknowledging the reality of the nation’s cannabis habits and keeping money out of the hands of the gangs have been key arguments in Mayor Frank Jensen’s (S) attempts to carry out a three-year trial of legalised cannabis in Copenhagen.

Unfortunately, Jensen has been let down by cowards in his own party. His party colleague PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt is on record as saying that “the time has come to institute a pilot project with a controlled legalisation of cannabis”. That was in 2003. A decade later, the PM says she has changed her view. Thorning-Schmidt’s current stance, which is shared by her justice minister and her party’s legal spokesperson, is one that is out of step with opinion polls that show Danes support legalisation, one that is at odds with a growing number of law enforcement officials, and one that directly contradicts the mayor of her country’s largest city.

It’s laughable that Denmark prides itself as being a liberal-minded nation while being left behind on a civil rights issue by a ‘conservative’ state like Colorado and a more courageous national government in Uruguay.

Despite 40 years of prohibition, Danes smoke cannabis. If prohibition continues another 40 years, Danes will still smoke it. So too will residents in Uruguay, Colorado, Washington and the other US states that will inevitably follow suit. But while they will light up legally and boost state coffers, Danes will still be lining the pockets of hardened criminals. (JC)